You have to wonder how an Argentine Open game could be special for Adolfo Cambiaso, who has competed in the tournament for a quarter of a century (since he was 17 years old), played in 20 finals and won the title 17 times.
The bleachers were abuzz Saturday about how it must have felt for Cambiaso to play his 100th game in the Argentine Open. To commemorate it he wore a jersey with number “100” on the back.
But that wasn’t the most special thing about the game for him. His eyes were glowing with nostalgia when he hopped on the legendary Cuartetera—yes, the original—for the eighth chukker of the game. As she has done so many times before, she carried Cambiaso to a swashbuckling victory (La Dolfina def La Irenita 21-4).
Cuartetera last played Palermo in 2015, when La Dolfina made history with their “triple triple”: a third consecutive Argentine Triple Crown title, an unprecedented achievement. After that Cuartetera retired and returned to her throne as matriarch of the Cuartetera dynasty, which currently includes close to a dozen of her clones. Each of them have ever-so-slight slight differences, but if you ask Cambiaso, to him they all “Cuartetera,” period.
Cambiaso played a Cuartetera in every chukker Saturday, which he found more momentous than playing his 100th game. He is far more sentimental and emotionally attached to his horses, especially when he meets a newborn clone, than one might suspect of the steely-eyed champion. It had been a long-held goal of his to play a game mounted only on clones, which he did a couple years ago in Argentina. Saturday was extra special because the original Cuartetera joined her offspring on the field, carrying Cambiaso on an eight-goal day.
A Cuartetera (known as “B06,” signifying the sixth clone of Cuartetera) was named best-playing pony in the 2016 Tortugas Open final. She made history as the first cloned horse to win the award in a Triple Crown tournament. Cambiaso was named MVP and attributed it to his horses.
In Saturday’s game Cambiaso saved the original Cuartetera for the final chukker, and she played as amazingly as ever. He made the play of the day Saturday on one of her clones in the sixth chukker. Cambiaso picked up a loose ball around 70 yards away from the goal and rounded the turn, hitting the ball on his nearside. He was surrounded by opponents: Juan Ruiz Guiñazú was right behind him, and Guillermo Willington was between him and the goal. He looked trapped.
Then suddenly Cambiaso faked them out and stampeded toward goal from the sideboards. He hit a neck shot about three yards from the end line and 30 yards away from goal. On what looked like an impossible angle, the ball rolled just inside the far post and brought La Dolfina’s lead to an insurmountable18-1. Each team added three more goals, giving La Dolfina a 21-4 victory.
Photos by Katerina Morgan and PoloChannel